Outfitting a Garage Shop for Robotics

I find myself newly in possession of a home with an oddly shaped, large garage and only one car.

I have an approximately 10’ x 27’ area to use as a workshop. I am starting from scratch.

Looking for recommendations on everything from floor coverings to good quality tools to figuring out how to do this with only four outlets that might be on the same circuit.

Budget is flexible but aiming to keep it around $10,000 all in. Cheaper would be okay, too.

Looking for specific recommendations on:

  • CNC Router for 2.5D FRC work
  • Drill press for drilling and tapping plastic and aluminum
  • Band saw (?) for cutting raw stock to size – both plates and extrusions
  • Rotary table
  • Vise
  • Arbor Press
  • Lathe
    …probably in that order.

I have a Bambu X1 Carbon already and the team has multiple laser cutters.

Also looking for recommendations for material storage, hand tools, clamps, toolboxes, bulk fastener sources, etc.

Would like to be a position where we can build a competitive FRC robot out of my house.

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For a CNC, there’s a strong affinity towards the Omio on this forum, along with a good bit of support. You can buy it either direct from china, or through WCP who’s a reseller.

For something to cut stock with, I’d recommend either a horizontal band saw, or a cold cut saw. A vertical bandsaw can be useful for a number of other reasons, but cutting large/long stock is easiest on the former.

For an arbour press, a 1 ton works fine for pressing bearings into things like gearbox plates. But if you have the space and budget, I’d look into a 3 ton with a long enough height/stroke to accommodate a 1/2" hex broach (don’t forget to account for a little extra space than just the broach, so you have room for the part you’re broaching).

I dont have specific tool brand/model recommendations, so hopefully others can chime in here with that.

For material storage, we use this rack from Uline (I drew one up and had it made at work for us, but all inspiration came from that specific rack). It works well for us, but honestly could already probably use a second one :sweat_smile:.

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Our lead build mentor has a onefinity cnc x-50 journeyman and loves it. We are trying to source funding to buy the elite version for our team. A mentor on another local team recommended this over the omio that his team has

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We have a onefinity foreman (4’x4’ elite machine) on order and should be here by the end of the month. However, with their shipping times being pretty long it probably wouldn’t be in by the end of the year if that matters.

Another option that could be worth it. They have a spindle upgrade option but you can also source your own spindle like you would with the onefinity. It comes with a tool setter, dust boot, and a few other nice things.

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I know 3d printer wasn’t on this list. Is that because the garage is unheated and hard to print in or you don’t ever print parts? NVM I didn’t see the note about the Bambu. If you do print in the garage make sure to get humidity boxes for filament.

Edit: Id recommend a nice horizontal bandsaw for cutting extrusion, bar stock, etc. Vertical metal storage racks with chain guards for tall stock. Usually these have horizontal shelving for smaller pieces too.

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We are very happy with our Avid CNC router and it gives us a much larger work area than an Omio. large work areas can make field elements much easier, and if used well, increase yield, but it would burn most of your budget and a lot of space.

Drill presses can be nice to have, but don’t spend much money. You can skip it if you have cordless drills, and especially if you have a cnc.

I’m with Brian on getting a tall enough arbor press to use a 12" long broach. If Craigslist doesn’t yield one its going to be pricey.

A lathe shouldn’t be underestimated, finding a old (like 50+ years) benchtop lathe is the best. Whatever you get make sure to get some cheap carbide insert tooling and a quick change tool post to go on it. A cheap import DRO Is also a must and pretty easy to retrofit onto most old lathes, only one axis is really needed though.

Bolt Depot - Nuts and Bolts, Screws and Fasteners online is pretty good for fasteners, but mcmaster is the place to go if you’re in a hurry or need something very specific.

Overall, space will be your biggest constraint so hopefully you live somewhere you can drive the robot outside, you can’t be competitive without drive practice and 10x27 would be tight even without a shop. If I were you I’d get a CNC Router, a horizontal bandsaw (HF is fine), and a couple cordless drills and drivers, then cruise Craigslist for lathes and large arbor presses. Drill press and rotary table should be low priorities and only if you have extra space and money after the router, bandsaw and lathe.

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  • CNC Router for 2.5D FRC work
    I like the Shapeoko 5 Pro for $4500 it’s 4’x4’, has ball screws, a VFD spindle, and has excellent US-based support.
    Shapeoko 5 Pro CNC Router - Carbide 3D

  • Drill press for drilling and tapping plastic and aluminum
    I don’t put much value on a drill press but the one feature I like to have is a cvt this is the cheapest drill press with one.

  • Band saw (?) for cutting raw stock to size – both plates and extrusions
    I would either go with a horizontal bandsaw or a one of these

  • Vise
    I’m a fan of this far more solid than the cheap cast ones from harbor freight.

  • Arbor Press
    You can probably get by with a 1 ton press from Harbor freight, but if you want to do hex broaching I would look into a 3 ton press like this. I like that this is ratcheting which is very useful with these larger presses. If you do get a large press, invest in a proper stand like this.

  • Lathe
    I would get the PM-1030V-w/QCTP-w/2axDRO and expect to spend another $2000 ish on tooling

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Any reason why this is recommended over an Omio? On paper, it seems worse.

Lots of good recommendations here. Definitely look towards the Spectrum lists for inspiration. For a lathe, I wouldn’t get more than a 7x12 from Grizzly/HF. I haven’t needed more than that ever, there’s just a ton of COTS out there.

For bandsaws get something with a slow speed, and ideally get something like an Evolution Rage 4 for chopping longer stuff.

I also highly recommend the wooden top folding workbenches you can get like the COSCO ones, they work great in my garage. A normal folding table for laptops is also helpful for programmers to work on.

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“Reinventing the CNC experience”

Huh okay then, kinda weird that it still has linear rods. And a fairly lazy/inefficient structure…and still using a wood router instead of a proper spindle…and

oh

it has an iPad

Yeah this tracks

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The market speech is pretty bad but having worked with one, they are good machines. While we had to supply our own spindle it was still pretty much plug and play. The feature that was pretty useful was the closed loop steppers. It’s like cnc’ing with bumper rails which is nice when teaching students.

I’ve been living a similar version of this - outside of FRC, though my needs are similarly scaled - and here are some questions that come up.

  • Space is noted as 10 x 27 - does this mean that there are walls on 3 sides, or 2, or 1? (Essentially, is this “Half” of a 2 - Car Garage, or a single, very deep bay?
  • What does power look like? - Add Access to Power Before anything Else.
  • How is the lighting? If it’s - literally, not bordering on daylight - buy some 48" “Tube Style” LED’s from Amazon and you will Regret Nothing.

Before planning for tools - assess the floor space for Storage. If you’ve got 3 walls (essentially, . walls on the 27’ length) then it’s easy. Pick a side, call it storage, and do shelves on that side.

If you’ve got a “pseudo wall” on one side (as in, splitting a 2-Car) - this is where you want to “build a storage wall” to divide the two spaces. (This is cool because you can sneak to the other side and access the “back” of your storage - it also creates a barrier between the “Science” (doing robot stuff) space and the vehicle space. (Assuming you care about your vehicle).

The above being said - the alternate here is that you do “Above” (Line of Sight) Storage. There are overhead racks that do this very well, otherwise doing shelves at ~5-6ft above floor level generally leaves enough room for most** machines. (**I say most because Floor Standing Drill Presses, Milling Machines, CNC Mills of Substance, Etc. usually need a bit of clearance above the Top for Proper Z Travel.)


Highly Recommend that anything storage related on the floor be either mobile (think wheeled tool box) or easy to move. This allows the space to be reconfigured as needed - with the added bonus of being able to “Pack Tool Boxes” and Move them wherever. (Assuming they’re on wheels).


Access / Workflow is critical. Depending on the nature of the space, you’ll want to make moving around and through as easy as possible. If you can get away with using both sides of the 27’ length, then aisle down the center makes the most sense. 36" width for an aisle is generally “Correct” - though more or less may make sense for your application.


Regarding the tool set - Assuming storage is built first, then this is easy.

I personally have been looking at the Legmiur MR-1*, which seems about right for “most” FRC Machining. There are other Machines that check some boxes better, but the MR-1 has enough power / stiffness to be able to get away with a lot of “Did it because it was possible” type machining.

(*I know you asked for a router, but I’ve found that the MR-1 covers ~2/3 of most FRC stuff, (basically, anything that’s not 2ft long or more, with a bunch of excess capacity/capability, for a price that is in nominally better than “consumer” routers. Added bonus is the capability to do “Real” 3D machining / being able to machine slugs into cool (dumb) stuff)

For Raw Stock Processing, a Good(ish) Cordless Badsaw, Ala Milwaukee 12V or Similar, will do most of what anyone should need. If you start here, it’s easy to upgrade outright in a year or two and get a “Real” Horz. Saw.

Vise / Work holding is extremely important. Pick how you want to do it based on the surfaces availble.

Filling out the rest of the items would take some time - and are probably “not right now” type problems. Lathe, Arbor Press, Etc are like, “would be cool, but let me do dumb wiring to make power accessible”, or something.

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A large set of wrenches and alan keys.
Particularly the small ones.
If you can find an ancient European lathe/mill for a good deal, assuming it works properly it’ll be perfect

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I don’t know exactly why but I think it was bang for the buck. It is just what I’ve been told and was trying to help.

Didn’t mean to shoot down the Onefinity. For a 4x4 CNC the pricing and features look good. But it looks a lot less rigid than the Omio, which will limit aluminum performance.

I own one of these and am trying to get rid of it. It’s not good for FRC stuff on account of the low spindle speed which limits your tool diameter or feedrate. It’s also a lot more expensive than an Omio for less build area, and it uses a proprietary controller. I don’t think it’s a bad machine at all, but if you do get one, I’d recommend skipping the flood coolant and included computer in favor of your own computer and mist coolant. Assembly actually went pretty well but it did take a few weeks and was somewhat quirky.

An Omio will do better for FRC overall though, on account of the smaller footprint and greater capabilities. You definitely don’t need a 4x4 if you’re working in a constrained space.

To the OP: prioritize saving space. Don’t get a full size lathe and mill. Make sure everything rolls and that you have a couple workbenches you can vise to. My garage is pretty close to my ideal setup as-is (designed around using half of a 2 car garage for FRC) and it has the following things:

1 Langmuir MR-1 CNC (which I will switch to an omio once I find time to sell it)
1 Cosco folding workbench (I want 1 more)
2 plastic folding tables
8 stacking plastic lawn chairs (very comfortable)
1 48" rolling wooden top toolbox with Allen keys, screwdrivers, clamp, saws, and other hand tools
1 bottom + top toolbox with machining equipment (I’d probably replace this with another wooden top if I was starting fresh)
1 DeWalt chop saw (Evolution 4 is smaller and cheaper)
1 belt/disc combo sander
1 permanent electronics lab workbench with pegboard
2 6ft tall storage racks with lots of latching 33Qt and 6Qt plastic clear tubs from Target
1 25ft dryer extension cord to supply the CNC with power (prevents breaker trips)
1 big shop vac (bigger is better, to a point)
2 brooms and dustpans
1 large trash can
2 Wall mounted storage racks on the opposite side of the garage, above where a car would go.

I got most of the stuff in Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Probably spent less than $3k in total, not including the CNC.

I wish I had a full bandsaw but I got a jigsaw instead. Definitely get a full bandsaw. Also wish I set up a bigger pegboard, but it would probably be hard to access without rolling things out of the way. A metal storage area would be good if I stored more raw stock.

The only things not on wheels are the CNC (which could use deployable casters), the storage racks, and the electronics bench, because it has some storage area on top of it. Last summer, I was able to host a bunch of students for significant work on a robot without issues, and still roll out a carpet for drive practice by rolling everything out of the way.

Make sure you can get clamps on your countertops. It’s a huge pain not being able to clamp workpieces to benches. It’s fine if you can’t on the toolboxes or something but try and make it happen for as many things as possible.

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Thanks, everyone, for the advice so far. It’s made me rethink some assumptions I’d made about where I could find the most value – e.g., my team currently relies heavily on a drill press for putting holes into extrusion (2x1, 1x1, etc.) and so I wanted to ensure a high-quality drill press to do the same.

The CNC tube fixtures that are on the market – I’m aware of the WCP CNC Tube Fixture and the TubeMagic – might make that a less integral part of our workflow. Does anyone have experience with these fixtures? I know they make it possible to pocket the tubes and put in bearing holes, etc., but if I just wanted to use them for putting gusset holes in, is the time required comparable to a drill press? Faster?

Do these fixtures adapt to other CNC machines? e.g., will the WCP tube fixture work on a Shapeoko?

The Shapeoko CNC is appealing over the Omio for a few reasons –

  • Work Area for Price
  • Included tool zeroing
  • Dust boot
  • Can order 2’x4’ sheet stock and use as is; no need to cut to fit machine

I am happy to spend a bit of a premium for tools that “just work”. I want the robot to be the project, not the tools.

While I haven’t worked with WCP tube fixture personally, I can easily recommend it by other people’s accounts. I have extensively worked with an Omio and the tube magic and with 100% certainty tell you it’s waaaaaaay faster at drilling gusset holes than a drill press…depending on the number of holes.

They are made to fit the 8020 extruded alluminum that the omio bed has out of the box. However, the shapeoko uses T track which might require a bolt/nut change but it should be pretty trivial.

But it’s also good for cutting out the gussets themselves.


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I don’t know if the TubeMagic is still made, but the WCP fixture is good. I don’t know what your drill press fixture looks like, but a router can pre-drill 2x1s before the season in minutes. It’s also easy to put bearing holes in the tubes directly to save gussets.

Omio X8-2200L is $3400 with shipping (without the optional $100 coupon), whereas a Shapeoko 5 2x4’ is $3600 + spindle with shipping. The Omio comes with a tool zeroing puck as well. You can get any $30 dust boot for the 80mm spindle, but I often find that with mist coolant (which you definitely want in aluminum) it’s inconvenient to use one. Can’t hurt to try, though.
You can put 2x4 sheet stock on an Omio, it’ll just stick off the bed about a foot. The Shapeoko’s performance in aluminum will be significantly worse than the Omio going off of numbers posted online.

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It’s listed now for $3999 on the WCP page. Did the price recently increase? Would that change your calculus at all when choosing between the Omio and Shapeoko?

It’s $2800 direct but then I’m on the hook for any import duties and other nonsense. And time.

There’s no mention of a zeroing puck on the WCP page but I see it’s listed in the kit contents in the manual. Thanks for pointing that out.

Out of curiosity what is the electrical service in the garage? while rare, 2.2kw spindles can pop 110v breakers.


When we imported the omio we had to pay a 550ish import fee.

And to gently push back on the omio. It’s a great machine for frc but the workspace is a bit limiting. Not being able to do bellypans and any 2x1 longer than 30" without some annoying maneuvering is a pain. Also the mach3 (the software that runs on the computer for the cnc) requires a certain kind of OS and is out dated (in my opinion). We’ve had a few problems with the omio skipping steps and erroring out. There are only limit switches on one side of each axis and will stall on the non limit switch side if you accidently CAM too far. With our omio our z tool setter puck had a weird grounding issues that would stop the machine randomly. The e-stop button doesn’t immediately stop the machine like one would expect. We used the pause button because if the machine is e-stopped or loses connection to the pc (via the usb wiggling free or loss of power) you have to rezero the machine. We had quality control issues with our machine where the ball screw came loose. If you order directly support is…not great and there is a significantly less info about the omio compared to more mainstream cnc’s like the shapeoko. None of these were deal breakers and were solved/worked around but the omio is a straight forward and basic cnc.

I have not used the shapeoko so I can’t fully assure that it doesn’t have it’s own faults.


*edit. I feel like I typed a whole paragraph and then casually put in that last sentence. It probably needs to be bolded to stand out and not make it look like it was thrown in at the last minute.

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Not stellar – there are only two outlets and I’m fairly certain they share a circuit. I need to double check when I’m back at the house next weekend.